Chinese Pre-Wedding Door Game and Tea Ceremony

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Last year, I attended my sister’s wedding.  It was an extravagant event, with the ceremony in an ancient Basque church and a reception at a country estate deep in the French countryside.  Since Frederic is French and Ping is Chinese, they decided to include customs from both countries.

One of the customs I remembered most was the door game.  Apparently, the door game is an ancient Chinese tradition that is played before the wedding.  The implication is that the bride’s family and friends do not want her to marry and therefore, it is up to the groom and friend’s to convince them otherwise.  The groom is blocked at the door, and her friends will ask him questions about her, to see if he really cares about her.  It is an unusual mix of hazing, bargaining and good natured fun.

The next day, my sister and I went to a friend’s house where the game was about to start.  Ping’s friends were already upstairs, and were peering outside the window.  Fred and his pals were by the front gate singing a love song in unison.  Starting with a popular French song and then switching to English.  Sue Ching, Ping’s college pal then yelled to the guys to strip down to their underwear.  It was a funny sight.  The reactions from surprised onlookers were even more amusing.  Afterwards, Fred had to answer a question about Ping’s favorite breakfast food, which he promptly answered correctly.  Now, they were allowed access to the front door.  

Before, they could enter the house, red envelopes were exchanged.  ‘Li Shu’ as the envelopes are called in Chinese, is filled with token amounts of money in order to ‘appease’ the brides’ family and friends.  Fred was then quizzed about Ping’s favorite sport, which is rugby.  The door was opened and the groomsmen entered the house in small marching steps.  They were then required to do 20 press ups before they could approach the back yard.  

At the back yard, more games followed.  The men had to pop balloons put between their legs without using their hands.  Fred had a hard time doing this, so more money was forfeited.   

In short, the afternoon was filled with a question and answer session about Ping and a series of entertaining tasks.  For instance, Fred wore a candy thong and his friends had to eat it without using their hands, or they passed a blob of wasabi with their mouths to each other and Fred had to eat it.  With each ordeal, the men moved closer up the stairs.  Finally, it was concluded that Fred was worthy of Ping, and it ended with a kiss.

On the other hand, the tea ceremony was a much more austere event.  This was held at the reception after the wedding. My parents were seated on chairs placed adjacently to each other underneath a bright red blanket.  Ping was kneeling opposite my dad while Fred faced my mother.  A crowd was gathering while traditional Chinese music was playing in the background.  Fred had to serve tea to my parents.  The tea was a special blend and each cup included lotus seeds and red dates.  The dates and lotus seeds have auspicious meanings and denote the quick arrival of strong, healthy grandchildren.  While the tea was exchanged, Sue Ching hovered over them, uttering lucky blessings and sayings in Chinese.  After serving my parents, Fred served tea to his parents.  At the conclusion of the ceremony, my parents gave Fred and Ping red envelopes filled with money.  Overall, customs are what make people unique.  It is important to be aware and preserve our heritage.   

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